The esports scene is all about chasing that sweet taste of victory, and for Dota 2 professionals, there’s no greater honour than winning The International (TI). Currently underway in Singapore, TI11 saw an intense group stage that led to many upsets in the main event, resulting in the elimination of several prominent teams, including defending champions Team Spirit and fan favourites PSG.LGD.
Now, only four teams remain: Team Aster, Team Liquid, Team Secret, and Tundra Esports, prompting fans to speculate who among them will rise above the others and walk away with the highly-coveted Aegis of Champions. Here’s what fans are saying in the lead up to Round 5 of the Lower Bracket and Upper Bracket Final on 29 October, and the Lower Bracket Final and Grand Finals on 30 October.
Hottest to win: Tundra Esports
The London-based team is a new addition to the competition, having joined the scene in early 2021, but has consistently delivered high-quality action. With a massive hero pool, innovative spirit, and a play style that fits the current meta, the members have demonstrated that they are indeed a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield.
The team’s track record speaks for itself, too. During the TI11 play-offs, Tundra defeated both of its opponents 2-0, one of which is OG, the only two-time TI champion. It’s an impressive feat, especially when factoring in its GPM (Gold Per Minute) and XPM (Experience Per Minute) stats, which tops the list at 2,471 and 3,055 respectively. By comparison, the GPM count averages 2,251, while none of the other teams, barring BOOM Esports, have scored more than 3,000 for XPM.
In light of this, Tundra is in very good shape to claim the championship. Should the team win, their coach Aui_2000 would become the only one to have won TI as both a player and a coach. The members are going up against Team Secret next, and it’s looking to be a close match, with currently-inactive OG player Topson predicting on a Twitch livestream that Tundra might win with a 70:30 chance.
Crowd-favourite Grand Final choice: Team Secret vs Team Liquid
The prospect of a clash between the titans is always attractive, and for this year, a Team Secret and Team Liquid showdown is what fans are yearning for. In an interesting twist of events, both teams only managed to qualify for TI11 through the Last Chance Qualifiers, which pits the runner-up and second runner-up from the regional qualifiers against one another.
It’s been a tough road to the final four for the two teams, and a hard-fought victory clutch would serve as a poetic narrative.
For Team Liquid, there are some stakes at play: carry player Matumbaman (otherwise known as Matu) will be retiring after the tournament due to National Service in Finland, so a win for the team would be the perfect farewell gift. If Liquid walks away with the aegis, Matu will hold the rare honour of winning TI twice as well, the first being TI7 with a previous iteration of Liquid.
There is a similar argument to be had for Team Secret, where captain Puppey is in the running to achieve his second TI win – his previous victory dates all the way back to the very first TI. Puppey also holds the record for being the only active player to have attended every single TI, so a victory here would undeniably cement him as one of the all-time greats.
According to a popular meme, though, it seems the team might come in as first runner up instead, having placed fifth in 2018, fourth in 2019, third in 2021, and second this year, or so the pattern goes.
Underdog victor: Team Aster
Team Aster’s place in the tournament is an inverse scenario of TI7, where Liquid was the only Western team remaining in the top four (and who later went on to become the champion). This year, Aster is conversely the sole Chinese team left standing, having eliminated its more popular Chinese counterparts PSG.LGD in the fourth round of the lower brackets.
Its members will face Team Liquid next in the Lower Bracket semi-finals, which should prove to be an interesting match-up in any case. Should Aster emerge victorious, then it would have defeated Liquid twice in succession (the first took place in the Upper Bracket Round 1) to prevent an all-European affair in the top 3, while also fulfilling the underdog narrative. The pride of the Chinese region is on their shoulders now, and it could prove to be a strong motivator.
Uncertainty holds the key to victory
As with all speculative instances, there’s always external factors to take into consideration. The general consensus this year is that no team has a full read on the metagame, which means no fixed solid meta has been developed in the tournament so far. It’s a whole lot of guesswork and experimentation of team dynamics, which certainly ramps up the unpredictability meter.
What’s unique to TI11 is the five-day break between playoffs and the Lower Bracket and Grand Final matches. This is the first such occurrence in tournament history, and can be a double-edged sword for the teams, who despite the break in momentum, have more time to figure out and lock in their action plan. The way each team tackles this added element of uncertainty here is likely to play some part in the outcome.
Regardless of who eventually qualifies for the Grand Finals (our odds are on Tundra Esports winning), the community just wants to enjoy the electric atmosphere – those in attendance, at least – and good old competitive Dota 2 action together. Despite the production hiccups and complaints, the teams in TI11 have continued to deliver plenty of excitement and hype, and we can only hope to see more of that in the coming day at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.